Active Hope by Chris Johnstone and Joanna Macy
What are you doing for a holiday this year? Up a mountain, on a beach, at home for "staycation"? Wherever you are we hope there is room in your bag for a book, or several. Everyday this week social reporters will be suggesting books to entertain, amaze, amuse and inspire, not just for relaxing during a few hours this holiday but also as low carbon fuel for your Transition journey over the next year. Not all the books are new so we hope you can use your local library, second hand bookshops and the shelves of Transition friends as a low energy, low cost source. We start the week with Guest Blogger Margaret Lyth, who popped up beside me at a Network Meeting a couple of weeks past and slipped a book into my hand.
"I know you like reading," she said. "Try this."
So inspired was she by the book "Active Hope" which she reviews below, that she bought a boxful to give to Transition City Lancaster friends. You can't get more of a recommendation than that!
Active Hope - Macy/Johnstone reviewed by Margaret Lyth of Transition City Lancaster
Books have changed my life. In 2007 I came across a copy of ‘Find your Power’ in which the author, Chris Johnstone, spoke of ‘the call to adventure’. The possibility of being compared to Frodo, King Arthur and other heroes and heroines of my past, really appealed to me. I was in that familiar ‘What Now’ state, after surviving breast cancer and reaching retirement age. I was asking myself ‘Is that it? Is it T.V. and slippers from now on?’ That book, that call to adventure, was the start of a journey which led to my part in the Unleashing of Transition City Lancaster two and a half years later.
Now it has happened again. Chris has written another book, this time with a person who has inspired me and others for years, Joanna Macy. Joanna has been writing about our connection to the planet, to nature, and our pain for the ecological and human destruction and waste around us for more than twenty years. She has been helping people through her workshops to face the despair of the nuclear age, and then the distress and rage about the wider planetary chaos. In the early nineties I bought a copy of ‘Coming back to Life: Practices to reconnect our Lives, Our World.’ That book led me to start my new adventure by initiating a ‘Deep Ecology’ group in Lancaster. Several people in the Deep Ecology group became the first Steering group for Transition City.
The combination of these two authors is sheer magic. As can be imagined, I have read around the issue of facing the current chaos quite a bit over the last few years. The new book ‘Active Hope’ combines the best of them all. Chris wrote ‘the heart’ section of ‘The Transition Handbook’ and Joanna included lots of practical exercises to help us explore a different way of seeing the world. They have been combined in ‘Active Hope’ with more added, and with more insights, more ways of facing the planetary problems that are getting more and more difficult to ignore. They have made ‘seeing with new eyes’ ‘much easier. The full title of the book is ‘Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy’ and it fulfills the promise of its title.
The book starts with a description of three common responses to the crisis, the three stories of our time. These are ‘Business as usual’ which equates to ‘I see no ships’, the ‘Great Unraveling’ which is about the way everything seems to be falling apart and how its all hopeless, and ‘the Great Turning’ which sees the creative and courageous ways people all over the world are facing the problems and trying out new ways of seeing and doing things. The Great Turning is a challenging, fundamental and exciting call to adventure.
Then the book follows the model set up by Joanna in her workshops. There are chapters on gratitude, honouring our pain for the world, seeing with new eyes, catching the connections and support that lies all around us and then moving onward. My favourite bits are in the later parts of the books on building our own sustainability in chapters with headings such as ‘Catching a Vision,’ ‘Daring to Believe it’s Possible’ and ‘Maintaining Energy and Enthusiasm’.
My favourite insight from the book today is ‘discontinuous change’. This means that sometimes things don’t always change in an even, predictable way. Change can come suddenly and unexpectedly after a long time, often when all hope has been given up. I recognize occasions like this in my own life.
I said it is my favourite insight today because tomorrow it may be different. ‘Active Hope’ is a book one can dip into and out of even when it’s been read cover to cover. There are always ideas and observations that I missed the first time round. It is clear, insightful and inspiring. Would I take it on holiday? YES, and keep it at home. I do need to mention how easy it is to read. I have bought numerous copies and given them to my friends and people I see as allies in ‘The Great Turning’. It is source of both realism and encouragement and I strongly recommend it.
Guest Blogger Margaret Lyth trained as a Social Worker but in the 70s and 80s, found her niche as Rebirther , Counsellor and Workshop leader, as well as teaching about groups for Lancaster University. After her retirement a trip to Findhorn inspired her to gather together the group that went on to set up Transition City Lancaster. She can be seen on Transition 2.0 cutting the ribbon to unleash Transition City Lancaster with characteristic joy and energy.